By now, we will all have been impacted by the global pandemic of Covid-19 in some way. Cancelled conferences and workshops, school closures, social distancing, and self-isolation are becoming the norm. Bars and restaurants, theaters, and other public gathering spaces are being closed. Businesses are closing their doors. Some will survive and some will not. Fear and anxiety for our family and friends have led to panic buying and hoarding in many areas. And we are yet to see the peak of the pandemic in many places. The plethora of information that has been disseminated, communicated, and mis-communicated is overwhelming.

How we respond to this crisis now will hugely impact what comes next. Now, more than ever, we are being called upon to take collective responsibility. The welfare of all comes before the desires of the few. As equine facilitated practitioners, we witness this collaborative model every day in our horses. When there is an external threat to the herd, horses will swiftly gravitate to one another and move as one. Equine ethologist Lucy Rees has observed horses in the wild to respond to danger through cohesion, synchrony, and collision avoidance. This is what we need on a global scale right now.

Cohesion of strategy. If we all go about our separate ways doing different things, this pandemic will continue to spread through our communities. When horses respond to a threat, the whole herd responds cohesively. The call to action is based on a life or death threat. To question how severe the threat might be and wait before taking action could leave one at risk. That decision translates to the rest of the herd as an increased risk for further attacks. Coming together means letting go of individualism for the greater good of the collective. Losing one’s identity to merge with the masses is safer than fleeing alone. For us right now, this means letting go of individual needs and adopting a communal approach. We are all in this together.

Synchrony of action. When horses come together in preparation for a stampede to flee potential danger, they move together in one direction at the same pace and the ones in the middle are the safest. We need synchrony of movement and we need to learn from China, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Germany, and other countries who are a few weeks ahead of us in this pandemic. We are not immune. We are no different. The advice has been to stay home to flatten the curve of the rate of infection. This can only happen if we synchronize our actions.

Collision avoidance is necessary. When horses are fleeing from danger, they maintain a clear space between one another to avoid collision. Colliding increases the chance of falling and falling could result in being attacked and/or putting others at risk of falling. Obstacles are avoided in flow as the herd separates and comes together again. The awareness of others within the herd is present at all times. The intention and awareness of the movement of the entire herd is held collectively. We need to heighten our awareness of collision avoidance. Already, we have seen supplies run out as people panic buy to over and above what they need, leaving others without necessities. We need to flatten the curve so that we don’t end up in a situation where we are colliding in hospitals and reducing one another’s chances for survival. We need to think like a herd and be mindful of every member, even as we run from danger.

The need for cohesion, synchrony, and collision avoidance in this whole new world that we are living in will become more evident in the days ahead. The HERD Institute has cancelled or postponed all in-person workshops and trainings for the duration of the pandemic. This was not an easy decision as we know how much time, effort, and financial commitment has been given by students and participants. We also know that this puts us, as a business, in financial turmoil. And we know that we are not alone.

I believe that we can all weather this storm together and find new ways to connect through the time of social distancing and self-isolation. Throughout this season of the pandemic, we will be offering a weekly support group for HERD members via Zoom. Every Tuesday at 2pm EST we can come together as a community and connect. Faculty members will also be available for individual mentoring and supervision for all members throughout this time. We will be offering group sessions online as well as launching a number of webinars. Details will follow as we tackle each obstacle at a time.

My hope for our community is that we can find strength through cohesion, synchrony, and collision avoidance. Once again, we can look to our equine partners to teach us. For that, and for each member of our community, I am deeply grateful.

May you all keep safe and healthy through these uncertain times.

Warm wishes,

Dr. Veronica Lac
Executive Director

Reference: Rees, L. (2017) Horses in company, Wiltshire, UK: J. A. Allen